Union called on to take tougher stance on pension levy

DELEGATES at the Association of Secondary Teachers (ASTI) conference yesterday called on the union to take much tougher action on the public service pension levy.

After several speakers expressed dissatisfaction with a motion by the union’s standing committee on the issue, it was decided to refer the motion back to the committee for amendment, which is to be brought back to conference today.

The motion deplored the ‘unfair and inequitable’ imposition of the levy and called on the ASTI to work towards its removal for all public servants.

But, following protests by delegates that the motion did not go far enough, it looked as if it would be defeated if allowed go to a vote.

Maire Ui Laoire, North Cork, claimed it was a mealy-mouthed motion that ought to be rejected.

“We should be able to articulate a better motion than that — we should have a motion with a plan of action in its place,” she said, to applause from the floor.

Ruth Coppinger, Dublin South, said the 500 delegates needed something stronger to bring back to their colleagues next week. She felt teachers expected a course of industrial action, including a work-to-rule, to be taken.

“It’s not a pension levy; it’s a public service tax,” she said.

“Very soon, it won’t be worth our while working and women are thinking about leaving the workforce. Let’s take a lead from the pensioners — the only crowd that took on the Government and won.”

P J Sheehy, Wicklow, supporting the motion with reservations, felt the wording was “rather limp” and teachers were expecting a strong response to the issue from the union.

Sean Fallon, Dublin South, maintained the motion was a pathetic response from the standing committee.

There should be a stronger response and a withdrawal by teachers from everything in schools that was not contracted. Management in some schools were already withdrawing from tours and sports, he said.

Teachers, Mr Fallon claimed, were being fleeced by the levy. Also, teachers might not longer be able to spend time coaching hurling and football in their schools because they would be forced to take second jobs.

Former ASTI president Bernadine O’Sullivan, Dublin North West, said there was anger among teachers and called for a plan of action to be put before the conference today.

Other delegates, including former ASTI president Sheila Parsons, criticised the Irish Congress of Trade Unions for not representing teachers. “How long are we going to remain silent?” Ms Parsons asked.

Liam O’Mahony, Dungarvan, said that teachers should not do anything they don’t have to do, including attending meetings at night, and also should not do what principals, or vice-principals, don’t want to do themselves.

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